Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay
Also see Patrick's recent reviews of Justice: A New Musical and The Travelers
Because, from the first moments to the last (a mere 80 minutes later), the six wives of Henry VIII (played here by Khaila Wilcoxon, Storm Lever, Jasmine Forsberg, Olivia Donalson, Didi Romero, and Gabriela Carrillo) have made it their royal duty to give you one heck of a show–while telling their mostly tragic tales of life with the infamous Tudor king. For, as the women sing, "every Tudor rose has its thorn," and there are thorns aplenty in their lives, thanks to Henry's unchecked libido and his desire for a male heir.
What would at first glance seem a dark tale–divorces, stillbirths, miscarriages, infidelities and, most famously, beheadings–Six turns out to be something more akin to a pop concert with six extremely talented performers backed by a tight (and all-woman) band, featuring a Tony-winning score, an array of bedazzling costumes (that also won a Tony for designer Gabriella Slade), and snappy banter provided by creators Tony Marlow and Lucy Moss, who also provided the music and lyrics.
The show begins as a sort of contest to determine which of the six women ought to be the group's lead singer, with the position going to whichever member of this sextet is determined to have suffered the most at the hands of the tempestuous Henry. The women then go about singing their complaints and throwing shade at each other: "Anne Bo-loser," "You must be exhausted ... from all those backing vocals," or, when one complains Henry didn't think her looks were up to snuff, another seems sympathetic for the briefest of moments–"aw"–then adds, "I never get that."
Some of the best bits come when the show breaks the fourth wall, or when it brings contemporary sensibilities to a 16th century story. "Didn't you actually die?," one asks. "Yeah–it was so extra," comes the reply. Anne Boleyn sings "Sorry not sorry about what I said–don't lose your head." Anne of Cleves, the fourth wife who was selected by Henry based on an apparently inaccurate portrait of her by Hans Holbein bemoans, "You say I tricked ya, cuz I didn't look like my profile picture." The song "Haus of Holbein" is, fittingly, house music that wouldn't be out of place at the Electric Daisy Carnival.
The performers are fantastic, with actions big enough to reach the back balcony of the Orpheum, while still retaining a sense of subtlety, with eye rolls, scowls, and smiles that communicate volumes.
But Six is much more than snarky fun and sparkly costumes and danceable beats. For the six ex-wives ("Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived," they sing at the top of the show in a nod to "Cell Block Tango" from Chicago) ultimately come to realize they must express their own individuality rather than allowing history to pigeonhole them by the one thing they have in common. Which makes Six, despite all its flash and pop energy, something much more than a mere fun night out (which it most definitely is–it's history with both a beat and a strongly feminist point of view.
Six runs through March 19, 2023, at SHN's Orpheum Theatre, 1182 Market Street, San Francisco CA. Tickets range from $40 (rush) to $263.50. For tickets and information, please call the box office at 888-746-1799 or visit broadwaysf.com. For more information on the tour, visit sixonbroadway.com/north-american-tours.